Notes on visit by Dr T.R.Shelley to Miss A Watson, Chaudhari Rahmat Ali’s former landlady at her house, 16 Montague Road, Cambridge, on November 22nd 1970

Miss Watson was Rahmat Ali’s landlady and life long friend. In 1970, she was a grey haired but very alert spinster of 85. She said she remembered it al very well.

Chaudhari Rahmat Ali first came to her in 1932 or 1933 to lodge. He said he wanted to stay for a fortnight. Miss Watson said she was at first unwilling to take him, but he was a very persuasive person. He stayed six months, until she could stand him living there no longer! He then managed to persuade her to take him back again until 1936. Miss Watson said she ended up spending a year sleeping on the settee as a result. He paid her two pounds a week, which was, "not really enough" and insisted on having the whole house as well. He was obviously not well off, but did his best to cover up the fact.

Rahmat Ali was generous with money. Miss Watson said Rahmat Ali gave her a guinea (one pound, 5p) to celebrate his passing his Part II Law exam and promised he would give her two guineas if he could pass his next exam, which he never did. He also once bought his landlady a coat. Rahmat Ali was a devout Muslim, and performed the prayer five times a day. Often a Mr Hamid would come round, and they would perform the prayer together. Rahmat Ali was never punctual. He often gave dinner parties, at which Miss Watson had to cook for him, He always had buttered toast with his curries. He went up to Emmanuel College every evening to collect his mail.

Miss Watson worked in a drapery business run by a Mr. Frost, and also took in lodgers, something she went on doing until shortly before 1970. Mr Frost took Rahmat Ali to the House of Commons and introduced him to Sir Herbert Samuel MP. Rahmat Ali was thrilled to bits with this. He got back by train to Cambridge about midnight, and came round to No. 16 rather excited. He then insisted that Miss Watson cycle round to "The Lents", a house in Chesterton, to get hold of his great friend Mr Haq, who then came round to talk to him.

The fragment of the above photo shows Haq on the right hand and Rahmat Ali on the left hand, opposite each other at a dinner. Miss Watson did have a proper picture taken of Haq and Rahmat Ali together. However, after Rahmat Ali’s death, Haq came over from Pakistan, "Borrowed" the only print and did not return it. Miss Watson said he may have been afraid somebody else would see this picture of the two of them together. Haq had ambitions in politics at the time. Rahmat Ali also had many other friends, his closest other friend being Jehangir Khan.

Miss Watson said Rahmat Ali was very nocturnal in his habits, often sleeping until mid afternoon. He always expected things to be done for him, such as demanding two clean sheets (instead of one) when his bed was changed, and driving Miss Frost, his secretary on until she became ill. He desperately believed in his cause.

Some time after leaving 16 Montague Road in 1936, he lived with his secretary, Miss Frost who cooked for him as well as doing his secretarial work. However the relationship went no further than that. He had a very strict sense of what was honourable.

In 1942, he turned up at 16 Montague Road and said he needed to leave a few parcels. Miss Watson went out, and when she came back, found the hall piled up to the ceiling with papers and bundles of pamphlets, presumably because he had been thrown out of somewhere yet again.

After the formation of Pakistan, he became embittered that nobody gave him any credit for his efforts to promote the idea. It is said that when he went back to visit, not only was he ill received, but somebody tried to poison him.

He always used to use Miss Watson’s address, 16 Montague Road as his mailing address, long after he ceased to live there, and always brought Miss Watson a Christmas box. Even just a fortnight before he died, already sick, he braved the frost and cold to come and give her ten shillings (50p but worth a lot more then), which he could ill afford. The final break with Miss Watson arose because Rahmat Ali mentioned Miss Frost’s’ name and address in an article in a magazine.

He died in January 1951 of pneumonia and a coronary. After his death, a Dr Fasiah came to Montague Road and wanted to find out all he could about Rahmat Ali. He wanted to stay three weeks in Rahmat Ali’s room and urgently wanted to see Miss Frost and all the papers. Miss Frost consulted Edward Welbourne, the then Master of Emmanuel College, who told her not so see him and passed this information onto Miss Watson, who also sent him packing.

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